Fifty oil tankers anchored off British coast refusing to unload as they lie in wait for fuel price hikes
Laden with fuel, more than fifty oil tankers sit idly within sight of the British coastline, playing a waiting game that is driving up petrol prices for hard-pressed motorists, according to the British newspaper Daily Mail.
While the only winners are market speculators, the losers are the millions of British motorists paying over the odds for their petrol and diesel.
After the a previous report in the Daily Mail on how several so-called ‘oil shark’ tankers were moored near the Devon coast, another updated report revealed that dozens more vessels were revealed to be loitering off-shore.
They are, according to the first report, part of a flotilla of ten vessels refusing to unload their cargo until market speculation has driven up its price to the level they want. Some are carrying aircraft fuel or fuel for homes. Others are empty, waiting to be restocked before setting off around the globe.
And as the value of that cargo is currently rising by over £1million a day, driven partly by profiteering traders and speculators, it is unlikely to see a petrol station any time soon. With such tactics, it is not hard to see why prices at the pumps are forecast to have risen by 26 per cent in a year by this Christmas.
Specifically, 54 tankers are anchored around the British Isles. Six are off the Essex and Kent coasts, five are moored in Lyme Bay, while four are lurking next to the Isle of Wight.
But the biggest fleet – around 30 ships – lies around ten miles from Southwold, Suffolk in the only waters around the UK where ship-to-ship transfers of oil are allowed.
They come from as far afield as Malaysia, Liberia and Singapore – and include 1,000ft vessels capable of carrying more than 300,000tons of oil.
Edmund King, president of Automobile Association, said: “Traders and speculators seem to be storing up oil until the price rises. Drivers can expect more hikes in the pipeline. Motorists are paying the price of this at the pumps.”
While Andrew Reid, of ship owners and managers Charles M Willie & Co, said: “They are all just waiting there for the price of crude oil to rise, enabling huge profits to be taken. If all this crude were to be delivered there would doubtless be a fall in the crude price and petrol prices.”
These tankers are treating the coast like a car park while they wait for the right time to take their oil to shore. There is nothing to stop them staying there as long as they like. Besides, small tankers bringing oil from Russia often use the spot to transfer their cargo to larger vessels. Others drop anchor there while waiting for business because it is cheaper than tying up in a port.
The price of a barrel of oil has risen from $40 to $80 over the last year. It is expected to soar even further over the next few months as the world eases its way out of recession and demand rises.
Even from the start of the tankers’ stay in Lyme Bay, the value of the oil they carry has risen from £313million to £378million – an increase of £65million, or more than £1million a day.
It means a 21 per cent profit for doing nothing more than simply watching and waiting.
Record amounts of fuel are now being stored in such a manner around the world – indirectly helping to push up petrol prices on the forecourt.
Oil pumped out of the ground by the major producers such as BP, Shell and Exxon goes by pipeline to tankers which then circle the globe.
If the price is not high enough, the tankers simply cruise around the high seas – or park in a safe haven – until it goes up sufficiently high to sell on in the UK or elsewhere.
Experts say every $2 rise in the price of oil puts 1p on the price of a litre – adding 50p to every fill-up.
In total, the Lyme Bay tankers carry a million tons of oil.
Once refined, that will create 250,000 tons of petrol – equivalent to 340million litres – enough to fill up nearly seven million Ford Mondeos.
The supply of oil is strictly controlled by producers and owners – to ensure that prices remain as high as possible.
In the course of its journey from wells to the refineries, a barrel of oil may be bought and sold by different traders many times on the international markets.
On the other hand, the extent of oil speculation is even beginning to alarm producer countries. The Arab-dominated OPEC oil cartel warned last month it will increase supply and thus reduce the price if the speculators do not relent.